Being shaped by parents’ “favorites”
Researchers say a key area of sibling life is the perception of whether mom and dad played favorites. “From a young age, children are very attuned to how parents treat them relative to their sibling,” says McHale, who has published multiple studies in this area. “A great deal of research has shown that children and adolescents who are less favored—especially in terms of warmth, closeness, and support—have more adjustment problems, from depressive symptoms to risky behavior.”
Research showing these connections has found that even adult children are susceptible to the impact of uneven treatment from parents. A 2013 study in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that young adults who said they got less parental support than their sibling reported more depression, and the greater the amount of differential treatment, the less closeness there was between siblings. However, if a parent’s uneven treatment is warranted for some reason, for example, if one sibling has a disability or illness, the other sibling might not like it, but they do consider it fair, which can counteract the effects of differential treatment on children’s adjustment. Here are 11 serious consequences of favoring one child over the other.